Balanced Activism – Making Change Effectively and From the Heart

My notes, thoughts, and paraphrased information from a talk at the San Francisco Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center tonight, entitled: Spiritual Activism: Awakening the Heart to Transform the World with Swami Ramananda

Yoga helps us access the part of ourselves which is connected to all of nature.

Act with that feeling of connectedness—brings peace and compassion to our actions.

If you protest with the feeling of separateness, the “other”, hatred, you will only be adding to the divide and the unrest. Not helping solve the problem.

It’s important to keep a regular practice of re-centering yourself, so that you can keep your peace, and respond peacefully.

When you interact with the world, it helps expose your weaknesses, so you know where to improve.


It’s important to bear witness and be present to what’s happening in our world. Not to pacify, or isolate ourselves.

It’s important to experience the emotions of loss, etc. without getting lost nor letting the behavior be governed by them.


Resist the urge to judge or blame anyone – the fault and good lie in all of us collectively.

Have compassion – know that those who are causing suffering are suffering themselves.

Bury insult & injury. Forgive.

Chant and pray. Prayer is an underestimated force in the age of science. Send your peaceful energy into the world daily.

The workplace is where Got put us to cultivate our spiritual values.

Do small things with great love (Mother Teresa).

When you listen to someone, they don’t need to fight anymore.

Lasting change does not come from wars or treaties, but from small groups of dedicated people all over the world who are committed daily.

1. Grow our roots with spiritual practice – so that we can be aware of ourselves, know when to extend and when to withdraw.

2. Practice spiritual principles (non-violence, compassion) in every day life (eating, sleeping, traffic, work, etc.)

3. Look for ways to be of service & take action.

Makes as many mistakes as you can as quickly as possible. We learn by doing.

Keep Writing…

In keeping with the reason I started this blog – to write down things I discover that are kind of neat/worth remembering – I figure I ought to recommit myself to daily blogging.

I’ve reached another very interesting junction in my life. I asked a student I met on the Amtrack last weekend to tell me about the sun. He explained that every 6 years, the sun completes a kind of cycle of the interplay of its double magnetic fields. The fields become sort of gradually twisted and warped, and every 6 years they “snap” back into place dramatically. This year, 2013 is a fresh start for the sun. And it feels like a dramatic and fresh start for me too.

I’m recently playing around with the idea of “Want nothing, and everything will want you.” (-some Yoga Swami). It’s a continuation on my last year’s decided theme of “Stop Striving, Start Thriving.” As of a couple weeks ago, I decided I have had enough of the “piece it together & try a bunch of part-time things” lifestyle. I’m ready for a whole ‘nother chapter. And I think this chapter will be an education in really using community to get stuff done, rather than “look what I can do!”

It’s also about manifesting what has been now a couple years in the making…my intention to stop living in survival/crisis mode and instead experience vast wealth and abundance. This, of course, is not an overnight process, because one does not shift 30 years of thinking overnight without any fallback into old patterns. Let’s suffice to say I’m making great progress on some of the key principles so far, which I ought to start writing down if I know what’s good for me.

My housemate complimented me on my bold sexuality again today, and let me know that I ought to be passing it on to empower other women. I shall attempt to do so, with the full understanding that many will not understand. He met me about 3 years ago, on a day that I chose to wear mascara, maybe even eyeliner. Perhaps this is significant given my profession at the time as a track & field coach. My “putting myself out there” had such a profound impact on him that he monitored me the next 3 years, as I navigated dating anew, just as a 9-year relationship had ended.

Now that he has had a chance to live with me for several months, and sees my lovers come and go, he tells me his is struck by my boldness in “choosing whom to sleep with.” That is, I think, not accepting society’s (outdated) norms for how a lady “ought” to conduct dating relationships. I’ve certainly learned to follow my own instincts rather than relying on shoulds/should-nots, though that has been a constant process of evaluation and soul-searching. Whevener one takes their world from following black and white standards to navigating shades of grey, they take on a very large burden of responsibility for their actions, choices, consequences, etc. I have found that I can get my needs for physical touch and sexual experience and intimacy and partnership (and reproduction!) met in several ways, all the while maintaining respect for myself and for others. I do not claim to be good at it. I’m still learning. But it’s nice someone notices the effort I guess ;-) I’m still not quite ready to write about more specific experiences, but I trust it will all come out in due time as needed.

I’m also feeling caught in this weird space between eras, like we are all heading toward one superbrain, where we all have access to each other’s thoughts (at least the ones we choose to upload onto the internet). The only thing that makes me want to express myself at all in writing is the fact that, even though I feel very (almost too) interconnected and eternal and one with the universe, that there are thousands and thousands of years of human experience before me, and may be thousands and thousands after me. And there have lived characters, such as Jesus, who have affected many generations with his thoughts and words.

It is true, that, no matter where we come from before we have consciousness in our human bodies, and no matter where we go after, that at least it matters to other humans what we think and feel and experience. I know this because I care about what others think and feel and experience. It helps me orient myself in the cosmos, on this planet, etc. It lifts my mood. It entertains me.

I have to say that my limited psychedelic exposure really challenged me in terms of what we are capable of experiencing with the chemistry and electricity that make up our bodies and consciousness. The hyper-intense feeling of being totally separated from “myself” (body/mind/etc.) was unnerving, to say the least, and ultimately drove me to wanna camp out in “myself” in a sober way and just live my “self,” as silly as she can be at times, more fully and presently and gratefully. Every once in a while, I am tempted to slide into the apathy and oblivion that accompanies feelings of ONENESS. We are all so, SO similar to one another – we are, at the core, a piece of DNA that just happens to look and act slightly different depending on how we find ourselves replicated in a new body. We have a lot of the same thoughts. We bathe in the same seas of oxygen, emotions, and energy. While the feeling of being a totally independent and separate creature in my ego is so strong, my experiences have revealed to me just how inaccurate of a worldview that is. I am not promoting drug use in any way, btw. It is very, very dangerous and I believe in living 99% sober. But in the end, I have gained a little in perspective, and think I’m coming back into a place where writing things down seems fruitful again. We are not ONE just yet, in access to each other’s thoughts, and perhaps someone, someday, will find something I said or thought of interest or use. Even if that’s just the kids/grandkids!

I know I sure enjoy looking back and seeing what I was thinking 6 or 7 years ago…on the last sun cycle :-)


The Little Things – Journaling and Allergy

I put my project manager hat back on today for my new consulting gig, and came across something I did at Chevron that I had forgotten about: Daily Journals. Every day, I would take the time to summarize the day’s activities. We had an internal calendar, so this was a duplication+expansion of that.

This is something that has been sorely missing from my “professional life” the past few years. I got as far as making excel task sheets for my various ventures, but not the simple act of daily journaling/reflection, which is probably more important in the long run, as it informs the tasks and makes you take stock on a more regular basis, giving you opportunity to learn and adapt.

I also took another 3 hour nap today, as I did on Sunday. Since my trip to Turlock, I started experiencing what I think others would call “allergies”, where my throat and nose close up so that I can’t take in a full breath. I wonder if it’s because we took a side route through almond orchard country between manteca and ripon, and I got a ton of pesticide/ag chemical exposure due to having the AC on full blast for the heat last week. Anyway, I did not enjoy the feeling of not being able to breathe. Not one bit. Our athletic trainer’s eyes were red and watery the whole trip too. I am feeling much better now that I’m back in Berkeley, and I find that eliminating gluten, lactose, and caffeine seems to make it get better, and makes me feel more healthy (I started to store more fat over the weekend as well).

Tips for Sleeping Better

Sleeping Health

These are some things I have learned over the years to help myself sleep like a baby. FYI, though I mention a little science, it’s from personal experience and from memory, and is subject to errors. Feel free to correct me. This is not a researched article.

I took a three-hour nap today. It was awesome. I welcome your comments to make this even better!

Key Points:

  1. Sleep in the right position(s) with the right cushions
  2. Make sure the temperature and air flow works for you
  3. Work with the melatonin/cortisol cycles
  4. Work with the light/dark cycles
  5. Manage your activity and eating to prepare the mind and body for good sleep
  6. Keep the body flexible and healthy to avoid cramping at night

Sleeping Posture

It is ideal that your muscles rest in a neutral position to avoid creating aches and pains that can wake you up or disturb your quality of life while you are awake. Lying in a prone position (on your belly) at night can be fine, as long as the bed is not too soft or your pillow too high to create a deep arch in the low back.

Lying on the back is fine, but avoid using too thick of a pillow or you may lose some of the natural cervical spinal curve in the neck. You may not really need a pillow at all when lying on the back. Too soft of a bed may also cause the hips to sink too far down into the bed, so one can use pillows to support the hips if the mattress cannot be exchanged. Sometimes pillows placed under the knees can take pressure off the low back. It is recommended to stretch the front of your legs in the morning if pillows are used under the knees, however.

Side-lying positions can be really ideal. Wisdom from yogic traditions tells us that sleeping on the right side is the most conducive to falling asleep quickly. While you sleep on the right side, the left nostril opens for breathing. Having the left nostril open correlates to right brain stimulation, which is more likely to lead to a sleeping state.

In a side-lying position, a pillow should be kept between the knees to keep the knees in line with the hips. A pillow (or two) should be placed under the head to keep the head in line with the spine. How many pillows you use depends on how wide the shoulders are and how soft your bed is. Also, a pillow can be encircled with the arms in front to keep the elbow in horizontal line with the shoulder, to prevent the shoulders from collapsing forward too much while you sleep.

Body Temperature

Most people are comfortable sleeping with the temperature around 60-70 degrees, but this depends on the amount of heat the body releases at night. Some bodies will give off more heat than others.

If you get too hot while you sleep, you may not sleep comfortably. It is recommended to use linens and clothing that allow air circulation to your skin, such as cotton. Tighter-woven linens or manufactured fabrics may prevent air circulation so if you get too hot at night, try using lighter cotton sheets with a lower thread count or change clothing to natural fibers to allow the skin to breathe.

Muscles can also get too cold if exposed to cold, circulating air at night, and can cause muscle cramping. If you wake up with sore muscles, try shutting off fans at night that blow directly across the skin, or cover the sensitive, exposed skin with clothing.

Body Rhythms

In terms of hormones, the cortisol/melatonin cycle determines when we feel awake and when we feel sleepy. Cortisol is depleted during the day and melatonin levels rise. When melatonin levels peak, we feel most sleepy and need to rest. During rest, cortisol levels climb and melatonin is depleted. At peak cortisol, the body awakens.

Sleep can be disturbed when the melatonin/cortisol balance is disturbed. Often stress will throw off the cortisol balance during the day.

Stress causes the adrenals to release more cortisol during the day. After a cortisol release, the body naturally wants to exercise, then rest to increase your melatonin to balance the stress/cortisol spikes. Managing your stress is an important factor in being able to keep your body rhythms on cycle.

Light Cycles

UV light also plays a part in sleep rhythms. The body becomes stimulated by light and sleepy in the dark. Sleep can be disturbed by too much exposure to blue light or UV light too close to bedtime. If you have trouble sleeping and live in a climate with sunlight in the evening, it may help to wear sunglasses in the few hours before bed to start to trick the body into thinking night is coming. Use an eye cover if you are trying to sleep and become aware of too much light.

There are also software programs that dim your computer screen so that not as much blue light reaches the eyes after a certain time of day. Although zoning out to tv images can help you wind down, it is not recommended to watch the television before sleeping because it can be light-stimulating, and if it is left on, sound is the first thing that usually disturbs someone’s sleep.

Keeping your bedtime consistent is the easiest way to keep your body rhythms on track.

Preparing the Body for Sleep – Winding Down

During deep REM sleep, the muscles of the body are completely relaxed (not being sent messages by your brain to fire), and the brain and thoughts are uncontrolled by the conscious mind. Therefore, if you wish to fall asleep, it is wise to prepare the body for this state and not expect it to just automatically shut down on your command.

Ideas to relax the body:

  • Do not stimulate the body for 2-3 hours before you wish to sleep. Stimulating activities include exercise with exertion, or taking in substances which stimulate the body (caffeine, sugary, spicy foods, etc.)
  • Take a warm bath or shower. Again, avoid stimulation, so not too hot and not too cold.
  • Magnesium is the relaxation mineral. You could take a magnesium/calcium supplement an hour before bedtime to aid the muscles in relaxation if your diet is low in magnesium.
  • Don’t eat a whole meal in the 2 hours before bed. Digestion shuts down somewhat while you sleep and you will wake up feeling like things are fermenting in your stomach instead of digesting (because they are!)
  • Actively tense and relax each muscle group before bed to ensure the muscles all feel relaxed

Ideas to relax the mind:

  • Do not stimulate the mind in the hour before you wish to sleep. Avoid hyperfocused activities and activities which produce anxiety, like tasks which require decisions or concentration.
  • Listen to calming music, not stimulating music
  • Learn mental relaxation techniques to release attachments to thoughts and worries. The more you can let your mind be free and let your thoughts swirl around and weave together without your controlling them, the better you can approximate what the unconscious brain does while you dream. Allow your thoughts to not make sense right before you want to sleep, just lay back and enjoy the show!

Keep the body supple and make resting a habit:

An overworked and under-rested body will tend to cramp up at night. Take time throughout the day to incorporate resting between periods of working and sleep will come much more easily. Learn a daily stretching routine that helps you relax and lengthen your muscles to their optimal resting length. Incorporate non-pattered movements into your day to avoid hyper-focusing the muscles on any one activity. Mix it up!

Easily Disturbed

The more I learn/notice, the more my mind is blown.  I really don’t understand how people just walk around this planet and take it all for granted and hold it all together mentally. It makes me feel either really smart, or really stupid: Smart, that I’ve caught onto something so profound in the mundane, or stupid, that I should take it for granted that it’s profound and go along with it like I’m supposed to be paying attention to something else of greater profundity, or indulging in hedonism.

In looking for and at patterns, I reflect on what my life is manifesting. In times of chaos, I look for signs, directions, currents. I find myself back in a pattern of sorts, that makes me feel young/retarded at an older age. Again, six years into a new “place.” Trying not to tell myself any stories. Noticing who and what is around me. Clearing my paradigms, so that I can avoid the trappings of the One who tells the worst disturbing stories to me. Excited for the opportunities that lay ahead of me, and the chance to reinvent myself, yet again. The chance to recreate new routines, to align myself a little more closely with the parts of the universe which delight me. To get rid of the mismatching, shabby old curtains that someone else picked out, that I got used-to. To travel.

Feeling the upheaval of my next transformation, in a single phone call, where someone hadn’t communicated with me their intention very well, then offers me something I don’t want and assumes me to be like something I am not, and then I have to decide what to be and what to want all over again, and it overwhelms me. I don’t know who I am nor what I want right now. I only vaguely know what I don’t want. There is no yellow brick road, and I’m lost. The wisest people I knew understood a lot of my life would be about collecting experiences. But did they know how frustrating that would feel? And that I would search for answers in really dark places, and feel so isolated that I would want to make something magical out of the nothings that would flutter by, and experience such highs and lows as a result?

Someone old enough to know, listening to my story last week: “Oh! You’re a student!” Yes, it seems so. A student with a bad case of “usefulness-wanting disorder”, or “Anti-art disease”, or “process distrust,” or SOMETHING. If #winning at life requires deep-diving into an object of devotion, I am surely not #winning. I am Gemini-ing. Rejecting un-awesomeness at every turn, without feeling like I’m creating much awesomeness of my own, though there are glimpses. Taking with not much feeling-offered. Being hard on myself. Still getting my bearings. Still learning how to give. And take. Appropriately. And with authenticity. And to communicate.

I must trust, that, if humanity allowed me to be spawned from it, that ya’ll would be really the most happy if I just did what came the most natural and easy to me and made the most sense, in a 20/20 hindsight kinda way. Whatever the hell that is. And I don’t want you to tell me any more anyway.

Perhaps the lesson for the student tonight was simply: Don’t take caffeine on an empty stomach. You have a delicate mood, and it is easily disturbed. Now go to bed.

Power Dynamics and the Danger of Passiveness

A wife is loyal to her husband, even though he beats her and abuses his children.

An employee is loyal to the company, even though the organization is failing and the cause of the problem is well-known.

A citizen is loyal to a leader, even though he is a tyrant who causes mass amounts of suffering.

Parenting methods reinforce people’s response to authority. OBEY vs. QUESTION. Therefore, proper parenting, that is, parenting a child as if that child would later be taken on by tyrannical parents, is in society’s best interest.

Proper parenting is like creating a constitution within a person’s mind that limits future destructive powers. It’s powerful :-) Coaches and mentors have opportunities to do what parents cannot for children in these departments as well.

We cannot afford, as a society, to become a nation of tyrants/bullies and passive loyalists.

The Awesomeness of Specificity (Explicit)

Just realized how marvelous it is that I have a friend I can call just to have phone sex with every so often. This is a very special situation that requires several factors to align: a previous hot physical relationship with enough spice and variety for some good content and connection, we know what the other likes and what turns them on. We haven’t seen each other in about 1.5 years (moved). He’s got a sexy voice, likes to talk a lot, and keeps a schedule that lines up pretty well with my needs. And neither one of us wants an in-person relationship with the other nor bothers the other person too frequently.

These are the kinds of expressive thoughts that probably prove I’m unsuitable for traditional marriage.

But! I think it’s really neat when someone can fit a specific need in your life so well. That takes a lot of investment, luck, acceptance of what works and what does not, etc., and ultimately is a thing of beauty and art. Yay.